(from The O. Henry Prize Stories 2007)
Dear Mrs. Payne,
I have been given your name by the Reverend Ware, vicar of the English community here. I am a blunt man, and I shall come straight to the point. Ware tells me that you have recently lost your husband and are without means. He has suggested to me that you may be interested in marriage with a man who can provide you with the security and affection you require. He has indicated to me that I may be such a man. I have every reason to trust Ware’s judgment in these matters, above all because he knew you as an unmarried girl and speaks highly of your breeding, modesty and intelligence. For my part, I offer you a man of thirty-seven years, of which nineteen have been passed outside his own country. I have a farm that would comfortably contain an English county. I am fit, healthy and, if Ware is to be trusted also in this matter, of sufficiently pleasing appearance to make my appeal for your hand appropriate and possessing of some possibility of success.
I enclose a photograph. The dog’s name is Jasper.
I look forward to receiving your reply.
So, M. Night Shyamalan is writing short stories. I kid, but this twist is quite Nightly — not predicted (by me, anyway), but weirdly tidy and built on a familiar foundation of established lore. And it’s quite captivating. You know things are spooky and weird, but you feel so happy for the couple that your curiosity is like Joseph’s — muted by a desire to not ruin everything and just stay happy.
I swiped that excerpt from One Story, which also has an interview with Lambert about the story. Here‘s Charles Lambert’s site.